What are the different types of IT roadmaps?
Building great software and solutions is invigorating. IT teams are responsible for the architecture, applications, and technology that bring real value to both internal and external customers. Your work is critical to helping the organization increase efficiency and achieve its goals.
IT teams support the day-to-day work of nearly everyone in the organization — it is a huge responsibility. It means managing more requests for improvement than you can realistically deliver on. And it requires a deep understanding of what your users need, beyond what they ask for. In many ways, IT is evolving and now has more overlap with product management.
Forward-thinking IT leaders are adopting a product mindset and translating strategic plans into IT roadmaps. Roadmaps allow you to visually communicate the big areas of focus needed to meet business objectives and show the timeline for implementing the projects and solutions that align with the strategy. Whether you serve internal or external customers (or a mix of both), roadmaps help you sharpen focus on what is most important to the organization so you can deliver solutions faster.
How to approach IT roadmaps
You can create different roadmaps to showcase various plans, timelines, and more detailed work. For instance, you may want one roadmap that visualizes infrastructure and operations capabilities and another that highlights planned improvements for applications and services. Common roadmap types include the following:
IT systems roadmap
An IT systems roadmap identifies the systems that enable core capabilities across the organization. It outlines current capabilities, future IT needs, and the improvements you plan to make in order to reach your strategic goals. For example, an IT systems roadmap would communicate plans about the major systems used to run your business. These might include technologies like your customer relationship management system (CRM), enterprise resource planning system (ERP), data analytics platforms, and identity management tools.
A technology roadmap shows the technology currently available today and highlights improvements that are scheduled in the future. A technology roadmap also considers when a technology may be scheduled for end-of-life. For example, when a core CRM system is being replaced by a new one, a technology roadmap will highlight when support for the current CRM will end and when the new CRM will be brought online.
As you outline the strategic goals and initiatives that will help you achieve your vision, a technology roadmap can showcase which technologies you will pursue to ensure that investments will meet the short-term and long-term goals of the organization.
Each functional group within the IT department may want its own roadmap for special projects or initiatives. For example, you may build a separate roadmap for the security and compliance team. Or you might want a roadmap for the organization's DevOps initiatives.
Components of an IT roadmap
The purpose of an IT roadmap is to communicate plans and progress. The details you choose to include should fit the needs of your audience — helping them understand what to expect in the next few weeks or months and whether any work is at risk. Most roadmaps will include some of the following components:
Goals are measurable, time-bound objectives that you determine as part of the strategic planning process. For example, many IT teams set goals to cut operating costs, enhance automation, or improve the release management process. Including goals in your roadmap allows you to show the "why" behind all of the detailed work.
Initiatives are the big themes of work or areas of focus that will help you achieve your goals. If you aim to improve the release management process, for instance, work might be divided into separate initiatives for different phases of the release cycle. Displaying initiatives on a roadmap provides a link from the "why" to the "what" of the work.
Features, user stories, or tasks
A more detailed roadmap may include information about individual features, user stories, or tasks — all the work that satisfies a given initiative. If you are sharing your roadmap with the leadership team, you may not need this level of detail. However, it can be useful to include feature details when sharing the roadmap with the engineers and operators who will be completing the work.
Releases, schedules, or versions
Organize features into releases, schedules, or versions to communicate what is in scope in an upcoming sprint or release. Map these releases back to goals and initiatives to show how planned work connects to strategy.
Include time frames, dates, and milestones to show when the work will be delivered. You may want to differentiate between internal readiness and when the new functionality or update becomes available to internal or external customers.
Many roadmaps include status labels, colors, or other indicators to show when work is on track or at risk. This gives the team a chance to highlight areas of concern or ask for help if needed.
Common IT roadmap views
The components you choose to display on your roadmap will depend on the audience and the information they need to see. Executives and stakeholders will want to see long-term plans and high-level priorities. Developers and operators will likely want to see the features and requirements that need to be prioritized next. The roadmap views presented here include:
Highlights work across multiple groups, projects, or applications
Displays the high-level areas of focus for the team
Provides a detailed timeline of when work will be completed
Offers a unique view for a specific audience
Portfolio roadmaps display work across different groups or projects. Viewing the entire team's initiatives on a single roadmap paints a picture of the department as a whole. Executives and cross-functional teams can easily understand the overall direction and strategy across the IT department, and how projects relate to one another.
In the example below, each functional group — infrastructure, architecture, services, and DevOps — has a set of initiatives that correspond to team-level goals.
A strategy roadmap represents strategic initiatives and the features and dependencies within each. IT teams typically use strategy roadmaps to showcase current priorities and to provide progress updates to internal teams.
The features roadmap is tremendously helpful for folks who are implementing the work. This roadmap gives a detailed view of the individual features included within a release. It can be useful to add status labels, category tags, and other indicators that will help the team draw conclusions about progress and the balance of work.
Many IT teams also build custom roadmaps to suit their needs. Maybe you are preparing a quarterly report or presenting to the entire IT department. The example roadmap below shows how releases relate to specific goals and how each release is progressing. This could be a useful roadmap for a department-wide meeting when you want to connect each release or version within a project to an important business objective.
Each of these roadmap views was created in Aha! Roadmaps — roadmapping software that includes workspaces purpose-built for IT teams. If you are not already an Aha! user, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial and access hundreds of roadmap views to share strategic plans with your organization and drive innovation.
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